Jimmy Deenihan, Minister of the Diaspora, spoke of the "heartbreaking" loss suffered by the families of the six students who died in the Berkeley balcony collapse.
The minister addressed a large congregation in St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco yesterday evening at a Mass for the dead and injured.
None of the families of the six who died in the Berkeley apartment tragedy were present, but families of the seven injured who remain in hospital joined Massgoers. The chief celebrant was Archbishop Salvatore J Cordileone.
Also representing Ireland were the Irish Ambassador to Washington Anne Anderson, Irish Consul-General Philip Grant, and his deputy Consul Kevin Byrne.
The Irish community of the Bay Area was well represented, and students and friends of the dead and injured also came to pray for those who suffered when the balcony of the Library Gardens apartment collapsed.
Mr Deenihan addressed the congregation at the end of the Mass and began by calling for prayers for the dead and for the speedy recovery of the injured - Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary, Niall Murray, Hannah Waters, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn, who are being treated in three hospitals near Berkeley.
He spoke of their parents and how they had looked after the needs of their children for the past 20 years and more, reminding us of the everyday, ordinary journey of family life in bringing up children and seeing them through "the challenging teenage years, and more recently, the young adult years".
"They looked forward to their graduating from college, getting a job, maybe some day having families themselves. It has been heartbreaking to see the enormous loss their families have suffered but inspiring to see how they have comforted each other," said Mr Deenihan.
The name of an Irish saint has been prominent in the final journeys of the Berkeley victims.
St Columba was a Donegal native who was born in 521 AD and travelled Ireland setting up monasteries.
It was in a church named after him that the remains of Eoghan Culligan, Eimear Walsh, Niccolai Schuster and Lorcán Miller rested on their final night in the United States.
And yesterday the Aer Lingus flight that brought the J1 students back to Dublin also bore his name.
St Columba was great-grandson to Niall of the Nine Hostages, while his mother, Eithne, was descended from a king of Leinster. He is the patron saint of the city of Derry.
At the weekend, Fr Aidan McAleenan, a pastor in San Francisco who has been assisting the families, told how he had been trying to find a funeral home that could accommodate four separate caskets when he thought of his own church in Oakland.
"Then it came to me. St Columba is an Irish saint; I guess we could take care of our own," he said.